What Scholars Are Saying About Online Education

stanford university technologyDuring a recent lecture at Stanford University, scholars and respondents debated the merits of online learning. From the current disruption happening to the technology needed to bring it full circle, the debate covered all the hot-button issues when it comes to education, technology, and online learning.

Naturally, I took an interest in this discussion and wanted to raise awareness of the discussion with Edudemic readers. Here’s the skinny:

The Event

Scholar William G. Bowen held a lecture titled “Prospects for an Online Fix: Can We Harness Technology in the Service of Our Aspiration?”

He and others discussed the pros and cons of online learning, MOOCs, and more. There was a definite focus on how this all affects schools like Stanford of course … but the discussion matters to everyone. From parents to students to teachers to major companies, everyone has an eye on education right now.

They’re all wondering when the major shift is going to happen. The question is no longer ‘if’ a shift will happen. It’s simply a question of ‘when’ we should expect to see a new form of education take hold.

“Now is the time” for online learning innovation, he stated at the start of his lecture, but he went on to point to three barriers to implementation: little hard data, no shared software platforms to ensure widespread adoption and the need to change our mindset. -Stanford University News

The Biggest Problems Found

1) The data to support the online learning revolution is not yet mature enough to draw any real conclusions.

Researchers found no statistically significant differences in learning outcomes between traditional classes and hybrid-online classes, and this finding was “relentlessly consistent” across campuses and subgroups – undermining arguments that online learning is suited only for certain groups. -Stanford University News

2) The cost comparison of moving to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is still a bit fuzzy.

“I believe that the educational community should make every effort to take advantage of the great strengths” of existing platforms, Bowen said, adding that there is a formidable challenge in making them suitable for instructing tens of thousands of students worldwide while also serving the needs of a particular institution. -Stanford University News

The Takeaways

Bowen and the panelists drew a few conclusions at the end of the event. Basically, schools like Stanford are and always will be a safe bet … but they’ll never look the same. Stanford, like most every other school, will see a revolution that involves an influx of technology, hybrid learning, MOOCs, technology, and other bits and bytes we don’t even know about yet.

One of the best ways to illustrate this point came from Daphne Koller, a Stanford computer science professor who currently is on leave, and is a co-founder of Coursera:

“We’ve only been doing this since January!”